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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Spirit and the Letter.: Chapter 15

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 15 [IX.]—The Righteousness of God Manifested by the Law and the Prophets.

Here, perhaps, it may be said by that presumption of man, which is ignorant of the righteousness of God, and wishes to establish one of its own, that the apostle quite properly said, “For by the law shall no man be justified,” 757 inasmuch as the law merely shows what one ought to do, and what one ought to guard against, in order that what the law thus points out may be accomplished by the will, and so man be justified, not indeed by the power of the law, but by his free determination. But I ask your attention, O man, to what follows. “But now the righteousness of God,” says he, “without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets.” 758 Does this then sound a light thing in deaf ears? He says, “The righteousness of God is manifested.” Now this righteousness they are ignorant of, who wish to establish one of their own; they will not submit themselves to it. 759 His words are, “The righteousness of God p. 89 is manifested:” he does not say, the righteousness of man, or the righteousness of his own will, but the “righteousness of God,”—not that whereby He is Himself righteous, but that with which He endows man when He justifies the ungodly. This is witnessed by the law and the prophets; in other words, the law and the prophets each afford it testimony. The law, indeed, by issuing its commands and threats, and by justifying no man, sufficiently shows that it is by God’s gift, through the help of the Spirit, that a man is justified; and the prophets, because it was what they predicted that Christ at His coming accomplished. Accordingly he advances a step further, and adds, “But righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ,” 760 that is by the faith wherewith one believes in Christ for just as there is not meant the faith with which Christ Himself believes, so also there is not meant the righteousness whereby God is Himself righteous. Both no doubt are ours, but yet they are called God’s, and Christ’s, because it is by their bounty that these gifts are bestowed upon us. The righteousness of God then is without the law, but not manifested without the law; for if it were manifested without the law, how could it be witnessed by the law? That righteousness of God, however, is without the law, which God by the Spirit of grace bestows on the believer without the help of the law,—that is, when not helped by the law. When, indeed, He by the law discovers to a man his weakness, it is in order that by faith he may flee for refuge to His mercy, and be healed. And thus concerning His wisdom we are told, that “she carries law and mercy upon her tongue,” 761 —the “law,” whereby she may convict the proud, the “mercy,” wherewith she may justify the humbled. “The righteousness of God,” then, “by faith of Jesus Christ, is unto all that believe; for there is no difference, for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” 762 —not of their own glory. For what have they, which they have not received? Now if they received it, why do they glory as if they had not received it? 763 Well, then, they come short of the glory of God; now observe what follows: “Being justified freely by His grace.” 764 It is not, therefore, by the law, nor is it by their own will, that they are justified; but they are justified freely by His grace,—not that it is wrought without our will; but our will is by the law shown to be weak, that grace may heal its infirmity; and that our healed will may fulfil the law, not by compact under the law, nor yet in the absence of law.



Rom. iii. 20.


Rom. iii. 21.


Rom. x. 3.


Rom. iii. 22.


Prov. iii. 16.


Rom. 3:22, 23.


1 Cor. iv. 7.


Rom. iii. 24.

Next: Chapter 16

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